NPA uses alternative schools as ‘training ground’ for rebels: IPs

By Jose Cielito Reganit

January 29, 2019, 10:07 pm

MANILA — Several tribal leaders and students on Monday denounced the alleged recruitment and other atrocities committed by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples’ Army (CPP-NPA) against indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples (ICCs/IPs) in the municipality of Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

In a hearing conducted by the House of Representatives’ Committee on ICCs/IPs, the tribal leaders also assailed the CPP-NPA for allegedly using certain alternative learning schools (ALS) as fronts and training grounds to indoctrinate indigenous tribes to subsequently wage war against the government.

Kalinga Rep. Allen Jesse Managaoang, chair of the House panel, said the hearing was conducted in response to an urgent appeal from the Mindanao Indigenous People Council of Elders and Leaders (MIPCEL) stemming from the allegedly growing insurgency problem in their ancestral domain.

The public hearing delved into the role and legality of the Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center that has 50 campuses in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

Datu Ramon Bayaan, a tribal leader in Talaingod, said the tribes no longer want Salugpongan to operate in their communities because the youths are being taught, not with the Department of Education (DepEd) prescribed curriculum, but on how to dismantle assault rifles and sing subversive songs, among others.

Hindi nila talaga gusto sa Salugpungan school, kasi maubos ang kabataan (They really don’t want Salugpunagn schools, because the youths will all be gone),” he said.

He also alleged that Salugpongan students cannot transfer to other schools because said schools don’t issue papers, such as report cards.

Paano ba mag-ulad ang tribu nyan? Para sa amin, pakiusap naming, tulungan nyo kami. Yung Salugpungan na yan, pabor lang, ihinto na. (How can the tribe develop with that? For us, please help us. As a favor, please stop the Salugpungan schools),” Bayaan said.

Control over ancestral domain

The tribal leader also denounced the PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao, a group supportive of the Salugpungan, as a front of the CPP-NPA, which has been listed by the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organization.

Bayaan, a founding chair of PASAKA, said the organization was established to go to communities and organize the tribes to act against the government.

Punta kami sa komunidad para mag-organize sa mga tao, para sabihin sa mga tao na itong gobyerno natin, walang kabutihan na ibigay sa atin. Yan ang totoong nangyari doon (We go to the communities to organize them, to tell the people that the government is good for nothing. That is what truly happened there),” Bayaan said.

Itong nangyayari ngayon sa PASAKA, malalim na ito dahil ang totoong nangyari sa komunidad namin, pinapatay na kami at malapit na kami maubos. Papatayin kami ng mga NPA. Yun ang totoong isyu doon. (What is happening now in PASAKA is deeply troubling. We are being killed by the NPA. That’s the real issue here),” he added.

He said it is now NPA leaders who control and decide on their ancestral domain.

Paano ang development na i-aakyat sa taas dahil natakot sila sa presensya ng NPA (Development could not reach us in the mountains because they are afraid of the presence of the NPA),” Bayaan said.

Asenad Bago, a former student of Salugpongan in Sitio Dolyan of Talaingod affirmed Bayaan’s claims.

Marami nagsasabi kung bakit dumadami ang NPA sa Mindanao, kasi dahil sa Salugpungan schools (Many were asking why NPAs are multiplying in Mindanao. It’s because of the Salugpunhgan schools),” he said.

The 21-year old former student claimed that during his stay in Salugpongan, NPA leaders come and go at the staff house for teachers citing the names of a certain “Mandy” and one “Jose”.

He said there was even a school established in Sitio Nasilaban that was managed by the NPA.

Pag di ka sumunod, pwede ka nilang paputukan (If you don’t obey, they can fire at you),” Bago said.

He said whenever there are no classes, he and his fellow students are taken by their teachers to NPA posts where they were shown videos on how to attack military detachments.

‘Bayang Mahiwaga’

It was also there that they were taught how to sing a revolutionary song titled “Bayang Mahiwaga” that would replace Lupang Hinirang as the Philippine national anthem once the insurgency succeeds.

“We were taught how to dismantle assault weapons and to overthrow the government. I already know how to dismantle an M-14 rifle, since 2014,” Bago said in Filipino.

Sometimes, he said they were forced to attend rallies organized by the left.

In one instance, he and his fellow classmates were sent to the Assumption College in Davao where they met former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo. They were then brought to Kidapawan City to stage a rally protesting the death of Father Fausto Tentorio.

However, the most abominable atrocity committed by the NPA against him and his classmates was of being raped by the teachers at the staff house, Bago told the committee.

He told lawmakers that he and his fellow classmates were treated like toys and raped by the teachers, including one “Rudy Garcia”, after which they were paid two gantas (kilos) of rice.

Bago said he left the Salugpongan because he could not stomach the debauchery anymore.


In the meantime, Datu Joel Joel Dahusay said he was utterly dismayed by what he saw were being taught in Salugpungan schools.

Ang sama ng loob ko kasi ang tinuturo nila ay tinuturuan nila ang mga bata na yung ABAKADA ay A stands for Armas, BA-baril. Bawat letra ay may kahulugan pawang connected doon sa revolutionary (I resented what I saw because what they are teaching the children is that each letter of the alphabet stands for a word connected to the revolutionary movement),” he said.

He added that he has been threatened with execution by the NPA because he wanted to establish a “legal school” in Sitio Dolyan.

May tinayo nga sila paaralan, 14 schools of Talaingod, pero pinilit nila ang mga tao. Kapag ayaw mo sumama sa bayanihan, pinapuputukan ng baril (They may have established 14 schools in Talaingod, but they forced the people. If you don’t join the cooperative, you will be fired upon),” Dahusay said.

Forcing them out

Now that people are against the Salugpongan, he told lawmakers that the NPAs are now trying to force them out of their own communities.

Nonetheless, he said he is willing to risk his life because he is the only one in their community of about 1,000 individuals who has an education, something that led him to know and learn of Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997.

The IPRA recognizes and promotes the rights of ICCs/IPs of the Philippines.

Sinabi ko sa NPA, may karapatan kami, dala ko yung libro ng IPRA. Ang sabi nila huwag mong gamitin ang IPRA kasi maraming gusot yan. Kahit maraming gusot, at least alam ko na ito pala ang karapatan naming mga tribu (I told the NPA, we have rights and I carry with me the book on IPRA. They told me not to use the IPRA because it has many defects. Even if there are many defects, at least I know now of the rights of the indigenous) tribes,” Dahusay said.

Bakit tayo aalis na taga-rito. Dito tayo. Yung mga tribu natin ginagamit para sa kanilang pwersa para mapalaks ang kanilang mga gawain, mga interest nila (Why would we leave? We will stay here. Our tribes are just being used to strengthen their forces and boost their activities and their interests),” Dahusay said.

DedEd inaction

However, despite the complaints raised by the tribal leaders and students, it was found out during the hearing that the office of DepEd in Region 11 (Davao) has not acted on the said issues regarding the Salugpongan schools.

Roy Enriquez, OIC chief of the Quality Assurance Division of DepEd-11 whose function is to issue permits to schools operating in IP areas, said that the resolution submitted by MIPCEL is devoid of any notarized affidavit attesting to the allegations.

“We received the complaints but our office is asking for supporting proof, like a notarized copy with attached supporting documents. Wala pa kaming letter na natanggap (We have not yet received any letter) for that complaint, as of this time,” Enriquez said.

He later on clarified that the complaints were lodged at the schools’ division level and has not yet reached the regional office.

Undersecretary Allen Capuyan, Presidential Adviser for IP Concerns, rebuked the DepEd for the seeming inaction, noting that two big Mindanao groups have officially submitted to the DepEd their respective resolutions, signed by thousands of IPs, regarding the atrocities and requesting investigation.

“With or without the notarized affidavits, DepEd, as a regulating body is duty-bound to evaluate the compliance of Salugpungan schools,” he said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) agreed with Capuyan, saying it has also received many complaints coming from IPs, including the resolutions earlier mentioned.

Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., the AFP assistant deputy chief of staff for operations (J3), said the complaints and issues regarding the Salugpongan were clearly stated and that complainants executed affidavits were duly notarized.

He told lawmakers that among the notarized affidavits is one attesting that parents are forced to work on communal farms where half of the profits go to the school and the other half goes to the NPA.

The AFP officer, who is also a member of the task force to end the communist insurgency, likewise showed several pieces of photographic and video evidences attesting to the allegations made against the kind of “youth training” conducted in Salugpongan schools.

He said these material evidence came from documents recovered during operations, from NPA surrenderers and from IPs who were recruited by the NPA but have since returned to the folds of the law.

“This must be addressed because many of our youth are dying,” Parlade said.

Legalities vs. actual issues

Meanwhile, members of the Makabayan bloc in the House tried to deflect the NPA issue by hammering on the “legality” of the Salugpongan schools to operate in IP communities.

ACT Teachers Party-list Reps. France Castro and Antonio Tinio, as well as Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, and Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao were one in pointing out that since the Salugpongan schools have permits to operate, they are legal.

Meggie Nolasco, executive director of Salugpungan Ta’ Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center, also pointed out that all their schools have corresponding permits issued by the DepEd.

Enriquez confirmed this, adding that the Salugpongan in Sitio Dolyan even has a certificate of recognition.

A license to operate is renewable yearly while a certificate of recognition allows an indefinite period of operation, provided that they are following standards and the rules and regulations of DepEd.

Parlade, however, said the issue is not the legality of the Salugpongan schools, but the alleged violations committed in such schools.

“If you are able to present evidence that these Salugpongan schools are doing something against the law, what is the next action of DepEd? Do we let the NPA continue with their recruitment, to let them continue to threaten the people who go against them?” he said.


It was also found out during the hearing that Salugpongan schools lack the required free and prior informed consent (FPIC) from IP communities, which makes their operations illegal under the IPRA.

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) said the FPIC is a prerequisite before any public or private entity enters an ancestral domain.

Enriquez said the DepEd only requires proof of ownership or possession of the school site for a permit to be issued.

“If there is already a school, what is being ascertained is if there was an agreement between the learning institution and the community for the use of the site,” he said.

Lawyer Reuben Lingating, former chair of NCIP and chair of the Indigenous People Peace Panel of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP-IPPP) disagreed with the DepEd, saying that securing the FPIC is required under the IPRA to ensure that the IP community fully understands what is going on.

“Without the FPIC, DepEd should not allow the establishment of a school in an IP community. And it’s very clear in the law, cases could be filed against you for violating this right,” he told the DepEd officials.

Lingating likewise said that if the Salugpongan really wanted to cooperate, they should undergo the process.

“The primary agency to process the FPIC is the NCIP and not any other government agency. If we all wanted an agreement and achieve what is really desired by the community, let NCIP do its job. This is the process where the leaders talk among themselves. They will decide and we have to respect their decision,” Lingating said.

Settling differences

Meanwhile, Capuyan called on the ICCs/IPs to unite since it is only them who can settle their differences.

“My point is more than 50 years of insurgency is enough. More than 1,000 tribal combatants have been killed on either side. I call on everybody that what is important here is not the peace talks but for the tribes to unite once again,” he said.

“It’s about time that tribes unite. Walang ibang makakagawa nyan kung hindi kayo mismo sa pamamaraang kultura (No one else can do this but you yourselves)," Capuyan said.

Managaoang, who is a member of the IP community in Kalinga, concurred with Capuyan.

He said the problem in Talaingod could be resolved by the tribes themselves.

“Solving the problems of the community through traditional methods is a big thing. The traditional methods are tested through several centuries and are recognized by the leaders,” he said.

“I hope we unite for a common goal. I hope that we can find some ways to solve the infightings happening in divided communities,” he added. (PNA)